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Vegetarians in Paradise

Using Your Bean

With this issue Vegetarians in Paradise continues the bean explorations of VOW, a diabetic who has discovered the importance of beans in her diet. In subsequent VIP issues VOW will enlighten our readers with the further Adventures of the Bean.

Adventures of the Bean #8
The Dawn Phenomenon and Chile Verde

by VOW

Includes Recipe Below

As bragged about in my last bean article, I'm now a diabetic "controlled by diet and exercise."

Sometimes, it's a pain in the rear end.

For me, the aggravating part is the cursed Fasting Blood Glucose level in the morning, the first test of the day. Here I've been SLEEPING all night long, and the numbers look like I've been to the movies and eaten a tub of buttered popcorn, a couple of candy bars, and washed it all down with a giant soda pop.

According to Joslin Diabetes Center's Guidelines for Pharmacological Management of Type 2 Diabetes, November 2, 2003, the goal plasma blood glucose ranges for people with diabetes for the fasting, before-breakfast reading should be 90 to 130 mg/dL. This morning, mine was 151 mg/dL. That doesn't seem too bad, but ideally, most doctors would like to see a number closer to 100 mg/dL. Kinda makes me want to crawl back in bed!

VOW There can be several reasons for this rise in blood sugar. Remember that diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, is a derangement of a whole network of body interactions. Everything you do has to be viewed on how it affects the entire body as a whole. And when you are controlling diabetes by diet and exercise, it's often a guessing game more convoluted than the mystery game "Clue!"

If only diabetes management could be solved as easily as "Colonel Mustard in the Library with the lead pipe!"

One cause of high morning fasting numbers is an occurrence called the Dawn Phenomenon. This is one of those evolutionary developments that harkens back to the caveman days. Imagine waking up next to the campfire as the sun is rising in the east. Last night's evening meal is only a memory, and there is no pantry full of supplies, nor can you run down to the corner café for a stack of pancakes. No, if you want breakfast, you are going to have to go CATCH it. It's hard to start out for a day of hunting and gathering when your belly is growling and you must combat the weakness of low blood sugar.

Mother Nature found a way to remedy this, with the Dawn Phenomenon. The liver is a fantastic all-purpose factory, and one of its many jobs is storage. It contains a supply of ready-to-use glucose, and it very conveniently will dump some into the bloodstream when necessary. In the morning, this provides you with a burst of energy to literally find breakfast.

Of course, those cave days are gone, and we are still left with the evolutionary developments. The Dawn Phenomenon is actually a rotten thing to have in present time, especially for an overweight Type 2 diabetic. Aside from the crummy blood glucose numbers, the Dawn Phenomenon will allow you to get up, get ready for work, and be on your way with no discernable hunger pangs. "I don't need breakfast, I'm not hungry!" is the morning mantra for many. If you could stand to lose a few pounds, you think this is a wonderful way to economize on the daily calorie allotment!


That elevated blood glucose number isn't going to stay elevated forever. The liver dump is a one-time thing. Pretty soon, the extra glucose will be used up by your activities, and if you haven't eaten ANYTHING, the bill will come due. That means you will suddenly find yourself ravenous, ready to pounce on just about anything edible, and any good intentions for watching your calorie intake will fly out the window as you set yourself on a "Search and Consume" mission! Vending machines will lure you with their siren call, convenience markets will appear to be an oasis in the desert wasteland, and you will be seduced yet again by the words, "Fast Food."

What to do? Talk to your doctor and your nutritionist and/or your diabetes educator. Make sure your diet plan includes the right proportion of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. See if a session of exercise right before bedtime can help bring down those early morning numbers. Some people may find that a protein-rich snack right before retiring can also have a positive effect on the fasting blood glucose the next morning.

And eat breakfast, please!

Here's a recipe where I really shine in my creativeness! Make sure you reserve some leftovers to have as the late-night high protein snack, or even to reheat for an out-of-the-ordinary breakfast!

More and more mainstream supermarkets and grocery stores are carrying vegetarian meat analog products. Green Giant has "Veggie Crumbles" you can use in place of browned, ground beef in recipes, and we've all got our favorite Gardenburger entrées. For the most part, "fake meats" consist of soy, magically manipulated to mimic beef, chicken, or pork. However, if you do some careful investigation, there is another substance that comprises many meat substitutes, and that is wheat protein, or gluten.

Years ago, this protein substance, often called Seitan, was created through an extremely arduous process of kneading a dough made from flour and water, UNDER water, to rinse away the starch. Today, thank heavens, you can buy the powdered gluten, sometimes called "vital wheat gluten," in many stores featuring homemade bread supplies. A couple of tablespoons of vital gluten added to a bread recipe will increase the protein content of the bread, and give the bread dough more elasticity to trap the carbon dioxide released from the yeast fermentation, resulting in a lighter, more airy loaf. Depending on where you buy the gluten, you'll find it's a relatively inexpensive product, often costing less than two dollars a pound if purchased in bulk.

At that price, it's a bargain, and here's why:

Powdered gluten is mixed in a ratio of 1:1 with water, to produce a very stretchy dough. This dough can then be formed into steaks, cutlets, roasts, nuggets, or any other meat-type shape. It essentially has no flavor of its own, and will absorb whatever seasonings you add to it, or immerse it in. Seitan has been a popular ingredient in many Asian cuisines for years. Some people have even given it the clever name, "wheat meat."

I predict once you see how easy it is to make, and how versatile it is, and how doggone CHEAP it is, you'll love it as much as I do!

To accompany this nifty substance, I found the perfect bean! As I explained last month, rice is often a food that becomes a fond memory to diabetics. If you don't want to limit yourself to a very small serving, or if you can't find that intriguing purple rice, there's another solution: The Rice Bean. Yep, there's a little white bean that is SHAPED like a grain of rice! It tastes like a navy bean, but it sure looks like something that should be named Uncle Ben! It's available from many sources online: http://beanbag.net/br8.html

Interested? Good! We're going to head to the kitchen to make a Mexican style dish called "Chile Verde." The seitan will be cooked in a green chile sauce, and served over rice beans.

Chile Verde with Seitan

  1. The night before you want to serve this masterpiece, rinse one pound of rice beans, add a three-inch strip of kombu, and cover with water. Let this soak while you sleep and dream of the next day's gastronomic adventure!
  2. The next morning, drain the water, replace with fresh water (keeping the kombu), and cook the beans on "High" in your crock pot or simmer on top of the stove until tender. Adding a little bit of garlic is always nice!

While the beans are cooking, get busy on the rest of the dish.


    2 cups ( 480 ml) vital wheat gluten
    2 cups (480 ml) chicken-style veggie broth
    1 t. minced garlic
    2 T. Kitchen Bouquet seasoning

Place ingredients in bread machine as manufacturer suggests. Use "dough" setting.

Chile Verde Sauce

    1 pound (450 g) fresh tomatillos
    3 to 4 fresh Anaheim chiles
    2 to 3 fresh yellow wax chiles
    2 bottles (710 ml) of dark Mexican beer (or 3 to 4 cups chicken-style veggie broth)
    1/2 C. (120 ml) raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
    2 T. minced garlic
    salt and pepper to taste

  1. On griddle or grill, roast the chiles until skins blister and blacken, set aside in covered dish to cool.
  2. Remove "paper skins" from tomatillos and cut into fourths.
  3. Place in large saucepan with beer and garlic. Simmer tomatillos for 10 or 15 minutes, remove from heat.
  4. While tomatillo mixture cools, remove the charred skins from the chiles, de-stem, take out the seeds, and coarsely chop, then set aside. Once the tomatillos have cooled, you should be able to slip off and discard the skins.
  5. Add chopped chiles to tomatillo mixture.
  6. In dry skillet, gently toast the pumpkin seeds over low heat. Once they become golden brown, add to tomatillo mixture. Bring mixture to gentle boil, lower temperature, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. In small batches, blend the sauce to a smooth consistency. Then add 1 large or 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped.
  8. Simmer for another fifteen minutes.
  9. By now, the dough should be done. Warning! It's going to look like a big, gloppy mess. Take it out of the bread machine, and you can use kitchen shears, a sharp knife, or just pull off bits of the dough in walnut-sized pieces. It won't really have a shape, so don't be upset if you aren't producing uniform, cookie-cutter portions.
  10. Place the lumps in the chile verde sauce. They will overlap, so try to coat them with the sauce so they don't stick together in a big, ugly mess.
  11. Once you have completely converted the big glob into a bunch of little globs and put them into the saucepan, cover the pan with a lid, and gently, GENTLY simmer. Do not boil, as that will make the seitan tough. The concoction needs to cook for at least an hour. Check on it frequently, stir occasionally to keep it from sticking, and enjoy the aromas that will fill your kitchen.

The entire recipe will make eight generous servings, with the seitan and the Chili Verde sauce divided equally. It's hard to give a portion amount, since the sauce volume will vary based on the size of the fresh veggies used to make it.

One pound (450 g) of rice beans will make approximately six cups (1.5 liters) of cooked beans. A serving size is 1/2 cup (120 ml).

Nutritional Information:
Calories 475 (440 if using chicken-flavored broth instead of beer)
Calories from Fat 30
Total Fat 3g (0g Cholesterol, 0g Saturated Fat)
Total Carbohydrate 44g (41g with chicken-flavored broth)
Protein 32g

The dish is also a good source of folate, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.

For some reason, I'm hungry for Mexican food right now!

Click here for more Adventures of the Bean

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